Forget Black Friday

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, because I love to eat. But the day after Thanksgiving, I don’t like as much. Why? Because it means the Christmas shopping season has begun for real.

I really don’t mind Christmas shopping or the crowds all that much. Where my stress comes from is having enough time. I always seem to find myself on Dec. 23 scrambling through stores looking for that one item I should have ordered on Amazon months ago. Thankfully, I live on the Seacoast, a shopping mecca, which has helped me finish my holiday shopping on time, at least for the past few years.

The Fox Run Mall is a favorite shopping spot for many people who live here, but spending a little time and money shopping at your local downtown stores has become just as popular. Portsmouth has for years has put an organized effort into getting locals to shop local. Small Business Saturday is definitely embraced, especially with the city offering free parking this year.

Other Seacoast cities, like Dover and Rochester, have some cool shops now that make it easier for people in those communities to get their Christmas shopping done. I have visited Lucy’s Art Emporium in Dover for the past few years during the holiday season and have found something for my sister or friends every time. This store features works of art, jewelry and other handmade items. The prices are reasonable and the selection is eclectic and fun.

Also in Dover is Just the Thing. Part antique furniture, part new gifts, this store is a good bet if you’re struggling to find a gift for that hard-to-shop-for person. Last year, I bought some hand-made ornaments for my mom and some gold-rimmed vintage champagne glasses for myself.

Rochester, where I grew up, has struggled to bring shopping back to downtown for many years, but the addition of Jetpack Comics and Skele Tone Records has unexpectedly made Rochester a kind of a one-stop-shop for the hipsters on your shopping list. Jetpack even offers a “nerd gift registry” that allows comic and collector fans to list exactly what they want to see under the tree this year. Skele Tone has thousands of vinyl records and cool clothing, like rock band shirts as well as punk, goth and rockabilly gear.

Also in Rochester is the little-known Stonewall Kitchen warehouse store, with both first-run and deeply discounted items that have minor flaws but still taste delicious. These items make fantastic Yankee Swap gifts, stocking stuffers or late night snacks after the Christmas party.

When it comes to buying kids’ stuff, I find G Willikers! in Portsmouth is hard to beat. This shop has tons of unique and cool toys you won’t find at the big box stores. If you want to secure your spot as the cool aunt or uncle this Christmas, G Willikers! is a good place to start.

Another must-hit spot in Portsmouth is the relatively new Pickwick’s Mercantile, a luxurious store filled with perfumes, candy, hand bags, cocktail-making accessories and other great gifts. There are books, toys and other unique and quirky items, too. Even if you walk out empty handed, the store is a fun browse.

Part of the fun of Christmas shopping is working up an appetite and going out to lunch. If you find yourself in downtown Portsmouth when hunger strikes, head straight for the Portsmouth Brewery. It never takes too long to get a seat, and even if it does, you can have a beer while you wait. Plus, there’s a gift shop with Smuttynose gear and growlers of beer, just in case you need a gift for a beer-lover in the family.

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